The Bethel Water District hopes to soon begin installing “radio-read” meters at customers’ houses, making meter-reading more efficient.

“It’s good for ratepayers and it’s good for the staff,” said Superintendent Luc­ien Roberge last week.

The Water District serves about 600 customers.

The new technology will allow the BWD to read meters remotely. “We hope we can capture a lot more information in a short period of time,” he said. “It’s very cutting edge. We can stop hounding people to get into their houses.” Currently the staff must enter some houses to read meters or trudge through winter snow to get readings from outside meters.

The staff will be able to read the new meters from the street.

The Water District reads them quarterly, or when someone sells their house, said Roberge.

He said the change is not only for efficiency. Because the federal government now bans lead from water meters, the current style ones are no longer available.

Said Brent Angevine, chairman of the BWD Board of Trustees, “We couldn’t even purchase them. We had bought some from other water systems, but they’re hard to find.”

He said the new meter system will also allow the BWD to detect leaks and burst pipes as the staff makes its routine rounds. If they carry the readers with them, an alarm will go off if they drive by a house with a broken pipe.

Angevine said the new meter project will cost between $225,000 and $250,000, and will be financed through a loan from the Maine Bond Bank.

A request for bids has been advertised. Angevine said there are two bid requests: for the equipment and for installation.

He said he hopes local contractors will bid on the installation.

As part of the upgrade, the BWD’s computer billing system will also be upgraded. “It will help us bring a lot of the system up to date,” he said.

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